Haunted Houses of Alabama?

Step inside if you dare…



Alabama has always claimed to have some hauntings…Lord knows I’ve been some places that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck! So, just for fun, I scanned through some of Jeremy Miniard’s wonderful photographs of Alabama with ghosts, goblins, squeakin’ swings, creakin’gates, swingin’ doors or rundown chairs in mind! I found peeling paint, rusted out roofs and ominous clouds over old montrous mansions and scary broken down houses for some spooky and frightfully good fun! Enjoy!haunted-house-10






Don’t plan on going trick or treatin’ at these places! And make sure you have your face pot in plain sight to scare away the evil spirits! Camellia’s Cottage has one that seems to be working so far! imageBut there’s this fella playin’ his guitar upstairs- sounds like he’s singin’ Long Black Limosine…whew I’ve got the shivers …IMG_0596

Love y’all, Camellia

as always we are so thankful to our resident photographer, Jeremy Miniard- all the good photos are his- the face pot and the guitar picker photos are mine. Find Jeremy at http://www.jeremy.miniard.finartamerica.com  ‘Long Black Limosine’ is an old song by Bobby Bare- I have to admit it always makes me cry…

Cheese Straws…


Real Southern Cheese Straws are a must-have pick up food particularly if you live in the South. I can hardly think of an occasion when Cheese Straws are not appropriate.

  • Baby Showers
  • Afternoon Teas
  • Anniversary Parties Cocktail Parties
  • Gatherings,Open House
  • And yes, Funeral Food

We do adjust the amount of spice depending on the event, an expectant mother may not be able to tolerate heavy spice, nor can mourners be expected to appreciate a Cheese Straw which in anyway indicates a ‘Hotter than Hades’ flavor, it just wouldn’t send the right message for the bereaved.  From the cradle to the grave, with Cheese Straws we know we can count on a savory bit of crunch whether festive or as a consolation. No self respecting Southern Hostess would be caught dead without Cheese Straws on hand, whether she can actually make them or not. In fact, give Southern Hostesses several dozen Petit Fours, a  pound of fresh toasted Pecans. some small handmade Mints and Cheese Straws- and we can throw an Afternoon Tea fit for the Queen. The problem is that most Southern folks who know how to make good Cheese Straws hold the recipe in the family vault and have been known to sweetly give forth a recipe but accidently leave out an ingredient or a critical part of the method- so that others will say, ‘Well, these are good but they sure don’t taste as good as Dixie Jean’s; nobody can make ’em like she does!’   Southern Cheese Straws are not made with puff pastry sprinkled with cheese, twisted and baked.Those taste like cheese flavored cardboard by comparison. The difference in homemade Cheese Straws and purchased- is like comparing a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese to the cardboard box version.  fullsizerender-3Real Cheese Straws are a spicy, flavorful short pastry. An elevated pie crust dough, put through a cookie press. My press is dedicated solely cheese straws! Some ladies inherit their momma’s press, which is a sturdy metal, not those flimsy plastic models! So, with that in mind- I have decided to be magnanimous and share my recipe with you. I try to keep Cheeze Straws ready to bake in the freezer -so that in 15 minutes I have a hostess gift, an unexpected occasion or to bake fresh for drop in guests. A good Cheese Straw recipe is invaluable. Just understand at the getgo that this is not just a recipe – it is also a method.

Camellia’s Southern Cheese Straws

  • 1 pound of chilled sharp or extra sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated by hand (Don’t you dare use already grated in a package!)
  • 1 1/4 sticks of  cold butter, butter flavored shortening or butter flavored oleo margarine (I actually prefer oleo because real butter has milk solids in it and can result in a stickier dough and one that will not dry out as it should while baking.
  • Grate cheese and oleo into a large bowl and cover with a clean flour sack towel. Let sit over night to soften. Sorry, but this is a two day process.img_1623Toss the Cheese and Oleo together gently when softened, until just mixed.
  • Sift together 2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and  1/4-3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper- depending on how spicy you like them- I like them spicy!
  • Carefully toss the flour mixture into the cheese mixture with your hands, the dough will be tough if you don’t. Mix well into a soft dough. A food processor works well for this- if the dough seems stiff add a bit more oleo. Do not chill.
  • Use a cookie press with a star plate. Put just enough dough in to almost fill the tube. Press out approximately 4inch strips onto an ungreased cookie sheet. *Note: I put the filled cookie sheet(s) into the freezer at this point- when frozen I pack them in freezer bags and label. If I need Cheese Straws right away, I put them in the refrigerator to chill, while the oven is preheating. Chilling helps the Cheese Straws keep that cute squiggly shape!
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make sure Cheese Straw dough shapes are not touching or crowded on the pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until dry but not brown. Store in a tin or airtight container after the Cheese Straws have cooled completely.
  • Hide them from yourself and others until the gathering- otherwise you will never have enough. They can be baked ahead and gently crisped up in a 350 degree oven but Sugah, you really have to watch them. No side trips to watch General Hospital or Guiding Light. Heat for just a few minutes being careful not to brown. *That rule always applies- dry but not brown.
  • This recipe makes 4-6 dozen Cheese Straws. I usually double it and freeze at least half, for other occasions.fullsizerender-5

If you don’t have a cookie press, please don’t despair. Your Cheese Straws won’t be as cute as mine- but you can gently roll this dough and cut into 3/4″ by 4 ” strips. Some roughen the dough a bit by running the tines of a fork through the dough before cutting into strips. Bake as directed. Another method would be to put the dough into a pastry bag and with a medium to large star tip, the dough can be pressed out into smallish dots- adjust cooking time for this! Dry but not brown is the rule.Some have been known to roll the dough into a log, chill or freeze and then cut into rounds for crackers. However, the Southern thing to do is to commit to the idea that Cheese Straws are a necessity, then buy, beg or borrow a cookie press to make them! Let me know if you decide to make them- I won’t have a 24 hour hotline but if there’s trouble, bless your heart, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible, or as a dear baker said- If it doesn’t work- start over. Truly, once you make them I think you’ll be convinced, Cheese Straws are the ultimate in good taste.

Love y’all, Camellia



The Circle of Life…

This has been a sad week in several ways, memorials to loved ones who are no longer with us, those who have been touched by sadness and tragedy. And just when the week was ending- a baby was born. Whoever said, ‘Friends are the Family we choose for Ourselves’ was right! A new member of the extended family of Camellia’s Cottage, a precious Baby Boy named Camper stepped into The Circle of Life.  To honor this happy occasion, for your viewing pleasure- The Theme Song from Disney’s Lion King©:

Love y’all, Camellia

Congratulations Maggie, Chris and Larkin for letting us share your joy!

*quote about Friends – Jess C. Scott- The Other Side of Life


Don’t believe ’em…

imageBesides our glowing skin, our charming accents, the unusual way we talk and the fact that most of the time we’re cuter; what people really like about Southern Women is our Food! I mean who doesn’t like:

  •  Fried chicken, real macaroni and cheese
  • Green beans, cornbread,
  • Blackberry cobbler, sweet potato casserole
  • and our Banana pudding?

So, every once in a while I feel I should warn folks about seriously misguided phrases, so you can avoid being trapped into eating something not at all like Real Southern food! For instance, if someone says-

  • ‘I found a new recipe for fruitcake and it doesn’t even taste like fruitcake!’ – Don’t believe ’em. We don’t say that for Fried Pies, Blackberry Cobbler, Banana Pudding or Mimi’s Pound Cake! And really why would you even want to make a fruitcake that doesn’t taste like fruitcake? Only a fruitcake, if you get my drift…fruit-cake

If someone wants you to try something called ‘Southern Style’ – well, it’s a fad. If style is added after Southern- Don’t believe ’em…it’s against the truth in advertising law. We all love to be stylish but don’t mess with our food! I’m also leery if someone says- ‘ I make fried chicken’. No, darlin’… this is how you say it-‘Ah’m gonna fry some chicken.’  And the clencher is if she has the burn marks to prove it; pulls up her sleeve- points to a place and says ‘Easter, 1998’ – and that place is ‘March 2001’.  That is physical proof of someone who can actually fry chicken- not make or style fried chicken!

But the real term to avoid is: ‘It tastes just like…’ chickens-black-publicdomainpictures

  • No, Honey, Alligator does not taste just like Chicken- it’s  tough and chewy…not even a tom turkey is as tough as alligator! Just say- It’s alligator, try it if you dare and add that white alligator meat is better than dark.
  • Sweetheart, Frog Legs do not taste just like chicken! Someone tried to pass off Buffalo Frog Legs on me one time and I was not fooled by that Yankee for a New York minute!Fried Frog legs are common in the South and lots of people like ’em, but Faithful Frog Leg Lovers are proud to place an order for Fried Frog Legs please ma’am.
  • Bless your heart, I hope you nevah believe that Turtle tastes just like chicken– go ahead and try our high faloutin’ Turtle Soup but please don’t ever compare it to chicken!
  • No Darlin’-Rattlesnake does not taste just like chicken- I’ve been to that rodeo before…and I looked like someone gaggin’ on a maggot when I was told what I was really eating! Honestly since Eve pawned off that Apple on Adam- Southern men will go to any lengths to pass off Reptiles and Am-phib-ians as chicken! Don’t believe ’em.
  • No Precious- Soy Burgers, Emu or Buffalo steaks do not taste just like beef and believe me in a state like Alabama where cattle are raised in every single county? We do know Real Beef.
  • And Tater Tot- Turkey Bacon cannot compare to the only meat designed to produce real Bacon-Don’t believe ’em…you have to go Whole Hog to get real bacon! IMG_1387
  • Imitation or Mock Crab does not taste like Alabama Blue Crab! And while I’m at it- Don’t believe ’em if they  say Crawfish tastes like a cross between lobster or shrimp! Crawfish is a delicacy on it’s own! *please note: It is a cross we bear, but please-Southerners do not say Cray-fish! That really sticks in this Southern girl’s craw!image

Today I was amusing myself by reading one of my favorite cookbooks- Don’t even think about asking me which one, I cannot bear for cornbread to be shown such disrespect– Some woman, whose ancestors, no doubt are Carpetbaggers; was Scalawag enough to pawn off a recipe called ‘No Corn Bread’ – really!  She actually wants folks to use Cream of Wheat instead of our revered Corn Meal! I tossed the cookbook away from me in abject horror. I couldn’t believe it! Why mess with perfection?2016-03-23 13.50.11Though as I’m writing this, I have to think that the cook who submitted- No Corn Bread  must either be flush with  money or not very well liked. Some Junior Leaguer is surely grinning like a possum- that she included such an irreverent recipe in the final draft!  You might as well be warned, don’t put too much credence in food styles, any recipe that says ‘mock’ or ‘tastes just like’  are food traps! Be warned, they are out there and often passed off as Real Southern Food.- Don’t believe ’em.

Love y’all, Camellia

*note: There is an actual Rattlesnake Rodeo held  in Opp Alabama if you ever get a hankering for real rattlesnake!. We might be the only State in the Union to have one town name Opp and another called Epp! Many years ago, I had a dear friend who had travelled from her home in New England cross country- She could not believe that she passed through OOPS on one side of the state and on the other side. she passed through EEPS, yes, that’s my sweet home Alabama!

Fruitcake photo is from http://www.commons.wikimedia, Black Chickens from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net All other photographs are my own.


Candlelight Vigil…


October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. A Candlelight Vigil was held in my hometown on October 11, near beautiful Logan Martin Lake, at the serene Chapel in the Pines.  Another Candlelight Vigil was held at Birmingham’s historic Linn Park on October 18. Both Candlelight Vigils not only heightened awareness, but honored those who have lost their lives through Domestic Violence. YWCA of Central Alabama sponsored both of these emotional events. It is difficult to believe that in 2015- 32 victims were killed, 267 were raped and 3500 were assaulted by someone who had said, ‘I love you’, right here in Alabama. Those are just the ones that were reported, many more assaults have surely gone unreported. The toll this type of violence takes on homes, children and communities is enormous. I am very honored to serve on a steering committee which serves women and children right here in my hometown. cadlelight-vigil-for-web

The Warning Signs which can lead to Domestic Violence are important to recognize so that lives may be spared.

  • Verbal and Emotional Abuse– Public and private language intended to demean, humiliate, embarrass and damage the self esteem of the victim. Name calling, shameful nicknames, mind games, coarse references about the image of the victim.  Displays or gestures of disgust which result in a loss of confidence. Abusers are overly sensitive to criticism and may react with verbal attacks An abuser may challenge the mental state of the victim, often with accusations of mental illness.
  •  Intimidation– Actions by the abuser instill Fear. Loud coarse language, controlling with the eyes or hand gestures, abusing household pets or animals, breaking the victim’s possessions, reckless behavior, uncontrollable rage and even open display of weapons  near the victim.  Abusers know how to hurt a victim privately, bruising where it doesn’t show.
  • Isolation– The abuser seeks to control who his victim talks to, screens television and reading materials. An abuser finds ways to restrict his victim’s movements, often insisting  on being with her. Controls where the victim goes, may even restrict the use of vehicles and  any forms of communication such as cell phones or social media. The abuser insists on exclusiveness with the victim, restricting friendships and relationships with family. An abuser controls his victim – always using jealousy to justify any abusive activity.
  • Economic Abuse– The victim is prevented from any form of economic independence such as getting a job, he makes the victim ask for money- closely controls family funds so the victim believes escape is impossible. Among other obvious problems, economic abuse undermines confidence and creates hopelessness. An abuser also may withhold gifts or lavish gifts to justify his actions.
  • Extreme Jealousy– constantly asking where the victim has been, checking cellphones and social media- actively checking for any sign of cheating, being suspicious if the victim has informed others of the abuse.
  • Blaming Others – commonly saying ‘It’s your fault’, ‘You shouldn’t have provoked me’, ‘You made me hit you, do this’ etc.
  • Using Manipulation or Threats– Using position or power to intimidate the victim, controls the victim by repeatedly threatening to leave, telling her that she is an unfit mother or saying that no one will ever believe her. The abuser threatens to commit suicide and worse threatens to kill the victim or the children.

This is just a sampling of the warning signs that can escalate violence in the homes. This is a dark subject- one I wish we would never have to discuss, however the number of lives lost so far in 2016, more than double that of 2015. ‘YWCA is On a Mission to Save Lives’. I am proud to be a small part of this mission. I would encourage you to visit the YWCA Central Alabama website for more information. candlelight-vigil-2016-ywca

I would also direct you to a wonderful blog- by a beautiful young mother and so much more- Amanda@overcomeabuse , who bravely shares her struggle with abuse and is one of my blogging heroes! Amanda keep inspiring us all!

Please, if you recognize any of the warning signs– make sure you know the location and number of a Certified Shelter or Crisis Hotline in your area. Just these two things can help save your life or the lives of others. Keep these numbers handy in case you run across someone you feel may need these services.

I am indebted to Communications Director, YWCA Central Alabama, Scottie Vickery for the wonderful photographs of our local event, for the information gleaned from the YWCA e-newsletter this month, and to so many others who are working tirelessly everyday to make this world a safer place to live and re-build lives.  Remember, a House is not a Home unless everyone in it feels safe. Let us never get weary of doing all we can to help.

Love y’all, Camellia

Football Food…

If you live in the South, chances are almost 100% that you are an SEC football fan, and not just a fan but whole hog– a rabid dog fan for your team. SEC football fans despise any team that has beaten their team even though it was 30 years ago, we have long memories and don’t cotton to folks who aren’t with our team. Whole families who are split in their loyalties, are barely on speaking terms during football season- if a couple happens to have divided loyalties, they rarely even sit in the same room to watch football, particularly if those teams are playing each other. And another thing, please don’t get married during football season, or at least check the schedule to make sure there are no conflicts! I know, it’s crazy! However, one thing we all agree on is – Football Food. Often Football Food is determined by which team you support- for instance here we always have Golden Flake® potato chips and Barber’s® Onion Dip because, they are considered lucky and both products are made right here in Alabama! I made ahead some Football Food today. This recipe would not have been sanctioned until we got past the Tennessee game because the food is Orange-  it would be bad luck to serve the other team’s colors on the day we were playing them! But this week, there will be no Big Orange! Football Food like this Fall Cheese Ball-is easy and delicious-and just adorable don’t you think?image

This was a quick snapshot- on Game Day, I would plank it as the food stylists are calling-putting food out on a board with crackers, marinated olives, pickles, grapes- whatever you choose. It’s a new style I personally love. This Cheese Ball is crying out for apple slices, don’t you think? I prefer to make two cheese balls (about the size of a baseball per cheese ball) from this recipe. I keep one chilled and serve one- to keep things neat. You can also make one large apple shaped cheese ball from our very own recipe if you are serving a crowd:

Camellia’s Cottage Fall Cheddar Cheese Ball

  • 1 – 8 ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1- 8 oz block of cream cheese

Let cheeses come to room temperature, then add:

  • 2 cloves of garlic- chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mix until smooth, shape into either one large ball or two small balls, making an indentation to simulate an apple. Chill until firm. Meanwhile cut a small branch or two (be sure to clean the bottom part of the branch with vinegar and let dry). Sprinkle the tops of the apple shaped cheese ball with mild paprika and carefully insert stick before cheese ball comes to room temperature. Before serving, allow cheese ball to come to room temperature. Serve with crackers or apple slices or even a puddle of strawberry jam. Enjoy!

Whether it’s Football Food or a Fall Celebration, this cheddar cheese ball is great and as an added bonus, the cheese ball wrapped tightly, freezes well. This week, I hope your SEC team wins unless they’re playing mine!

Love y’all, Camiella




A Time to Mourn…

candlelight-vigil-2016-scottie-vickeryIt is a Time to Mourn when hearts are broken. In the last few weeks, folks we love have died, Hurricanes have taken the lives of those on our American soil and hundreds have died in Haiti. It is a Time to Mourn. A Candlelight Vigil was held in our county to honor those who lost their lives at the hands of someone who had said ‘I love you’ but whose anger went unchecked in domestic abuse and violence. It is a Time to Mourn. Two notable Alabamians, our friend Lucy Baxley, former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and Mary Jo McMichael, the friend of Fanny Flagg- Mary Jo fried green tomatoes for decades at the Irondale Café.   It is a Time to Mourn as wise King Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes 3:4. It seemed appropriate to show respect and honor for these who have left us- with the beautiful hymn, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’- performed by Andre Rieu’s amazing musicians. Please pay particular attention to how the musicians surround the audience. If you have lost a loved one recently, we honor your loss and mourn with you. We pray that you are surrounded by the loving Presence of God. Love y’all, Camellia

Photograph of Candlelight Vigil by Scottie Vickery, Communication Director of YWCA of Central Alabama – also *please note that yesterday, October 15 was a day for remembrance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss